The Perfect Cup: Creating the Right Coffee Blend with Color Measurement

Coffee is quickly taking over around the world as the drink of the new millennium. I am not talking about the boring bargain roast with which our grandparents stocked their pantries in the 1950’s. Today’s coffee options are nearly limitless, and creating the right coffee blend has developed into both a science and an art. Just like other food products in the agricultural industry, careful grading systems and protocols are being used to determine quality in raw coffee beans and create the right coffee blend by meeting precise roasting standards with color measurement instrumentation.

scoop of beans coffee blend
Coffee is quickly taking over the world as a preferred beverage option. Creating the perfect roasts and blends depends on the highest quality of color measurement and classification systems.
Image Source: Flickr user SPT Photographe

Coffee color classifications

Color measurement plays a vital role in every stage of coffee manufacturing and development. The SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America) has created standards and protocols that depend on color measurement for the evaluation of green coffee for quality and color standard purposes. These standards are also used for proper monitoring during whole bean roasting and for precise ground coffee blend color analysis. Each stage of coffee development depends upon precise color measurements to create the perfect blend in order to meet quality and consumer expectations. Coffee growers and roasters around the world depend on these standards for providing consistency in their products.

green and roasted beans coffee blend
Color measurement is used to meet the quality standards of green coffee and also monitor roasting times for specific color scale classification.
Image Source: Flickr user Kristian Mollenborg

When referring to coffee blend analysis, it is important to remember that it is often necessary to classify coffee by color for the purpose of quality control or to meet cupping standard practices. Coffee is commonly classified by roast color, which ranges from light to dark with variances in between, making it important to group similar coffees together. This is achieved by following the Roast Color Classification System that has been developed by the SCAA. Using this system, roast levels will range from “very light” to “very dark” with “medium” coffee blends in between. In order to obtain measurable roast classification data, two methods are applicable: a chemistry index using infrared analysis and a visual classification using a roast color classification kit.

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Coffee color analysis

Although visual classification is an option, instrumental color measurement is by far the better choice. The human eye has its limitations and can only provide subjective data which creates numerous inconsistencies between viewers. This makes it difficult to standardize coffee by color or create consistent coffee blend data. Spectrophotometric analysis provides objective and quantifiable data that is then used to produce exact roasting times and methods and establish perfect coffee blend formulas. Using instrumental analysis, the data can then be used to “correspond the results with the caramelization of sucrose (sugar) associated with a particular degree of roast.” The longer the raw coffee beans are roasted, the more sugar is caramelized, resulting in a darker roast. Continual color monitoring during the roasting phase ensures that the proper color level is achieved.

dark roast coffee blend
Coffee color classification is all dependent on roasting times and continual color monitoring. With longer the roasting times, deeper color development can be achieved.
Flickr user Purple Sherbet Photography

A 0°/45° optical geometry spectrophotometer emulates the way the human eye perceives the sample and provides the data necessary to maintain consistency from batch-to-batch and lot-to-lot without human error. The HunterLab ColorFlex EZ line of spectrophotometers provides this technology in an efficient, durable, and portable machine. The new ColorFlex EZ Coffee spectrophotometer is the latest addition to the ColorFlex family and is specifically designed with the coffee industry in mind. This product can easily measure the color of roasted coffee grounds, including both freeze-dried and instant powders varieties. Providing quick and easy to read data, the ColorFlex EX Coffee assists manufacturers in producing the perfect coffee blend and repeating these results time and time again. This spectrophotometer has been developed to save both time and money while producing quality products for all your coffee blending and color measurement needs. For more information, contact HunterLab today.

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